A tiny home is a smaller dwelling that promotes the simplification and functionality of condensed living spaces. Many of these homes are mobile and appeal to those seeking a more minimalist lifestyle.
Tiny Homes – A planning POV
The tiny home and smaller residence movement still operates in a grey area as far as the Victorian planning system is concerned. Amendment VC253 loosened up the ‘granny flat’ controls by allowing a ‘Small second dwelling’.
Previously, a ‘dependent person’s unit’ was allowed without a permit but was required to be removed from the land or altered so it no longer functioned as a dwelling once the dependent person no longer occupied the unit. Usually, these alternations were achieved by the removal of the kitchen or bathroom.
The recent changes approved by Amendment VC253 allow for a small second dwelling to be established with a degree of permanence, provided the conditions are satisfied. However, tiny homes present more regulatory tension due to the more temporary nature of the buildings.
A lifestyle choice
Part of the attraction of a tiny home is the minimalist lifestyle ‒ the ability to have a mobile dwelling and be less tied down. The planning scheme does include policy direction to allow choice, but there is a degree of rigidity in the land use definitions for accommodation.
Similar to people living in caravans, buses or sheds, Councils raise concerns regarding health matters, particularly the management of wastewater. This potential for an adverse outcome biases Councils towards permanent arrangements where the solutions are fixed and are more predictable, requiring less monitoring or enforcement.
Solution for the housing crisis
Tiny homes are a potential solution for providing crisis housing solutions for those unable to find housing, offering a home for many families living in temporary accommodation or makeshift arrangements like vehicles or tents.
In 2024 under the Victorian system, the arrangement of several tiny homes would likely require a planning permit for use and development as a ‘camping or caravan park’ or ‘residential village’, or potentially as ‘Community care accommodation’ if it was operating in the crisis accommodation space. Whether such uses could be approved would depend on the zoning and planning policy for the relevant site.
As the planning system stands, there isn’t a clear approval pathway to facilitate the widespread use of the housing form on a single, site-by-site basis.
Paving an easier road for tiny homes
Regulatory controls in Victoria include some planning considerations but also include Council local laws and building regulations.
For instance, an approval pathway for a tiny home would need for the housing form to recognised and allow for variation to the design. Such controls, like the Better Apartment Design Standards, exist to ensure dwellings are fit for purpose and ultimately afford dignity to future occupants.
Ratio is regularly involved in tiny home applications so reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with one of our team to discuss your next project.